Dance Tidbits – Costa Rican Dances

Photo Courtesy of Sandor Havasi

Costa Rica means in Spanish, “rich coast.” It is a country in Central America. Costa Rica borders Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Costa Rica is a third world country.

If ever there was a country rich in dance, especially traditional dances, Costa Rica is a top contender. Costa Rican dances go back hundreds of years. Some of the dance styles and music of Costa Rica are influenced by Europeans and Africans. However, Costa Ricans are quick to point out that most of the older dances were developed by the pre-Columbian, indigenous Costa Ricans. Of course the dances are often festive and entertaining but on the flip side, they are used to tell stories with respect to their history, legends and culture. I found the traditional dances so interesting, I would like to share them with you.

Punto Guanacasteco is the most popular traditional dance of Costa Rican culture. The Punto Guanacasteco tells the tale of modest girls and young men that pursue them. Often, you will see this dance with women in the inner circle and men in the outer circle.

La Yeguita is a traditional and semi-religious dance. La Yeguita means “the little mare.” The dancer dresses as a horse on the 11th and 12th of December every year. It is a ritualistic dance where the dance takes place early in the morning in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Diablitos is another semi-religious dance performed in rural communities and among indigenous gatherings. Diablitos dance lasts for four days. The ritual for the men of the community is to act out through dance, the Spanish arrival and conflicts between the indigenous people and new settlers.

Suin Criollo is a unique Costa Rican dance derived from the swing dances of the United States. Suin Criollo dancing steps were actually developed for Colombian Cumbia music. What’s interesting about this dance is it was once considered controversial and dangerous and prohibited in most Costa Rican dance halls.

Chorotega is a traditional dance that includes the Danza del Sol and the Danza de la Luna, which means the dance of the sun and the dance of the moon. These dances are mainly performed for tourists, as they tell the tales of traditional folklore. The story dance can be about legends of coffee farmers, lovers and/or tales of ancient times.

In discos today, you will see Costa Ricans dancing Merengue, Salsa and Cumbia. Cumbia is one of my favorite dances of all time. I love the music and the element of swing and bouncing in the dance steps. Most modern Costa Ricans would consider Cumbia their favorite dance. They use tropical rhythms with drums and other percussion instruments to create the famous Cumbia beat. They mix Swing Criollo, Lindy and Jive with bouncing steps, small kicks and spins. The footwork is fancy and complex. Cumbia is the one dance that is the pride of Costa Rica.

The typical costumes worn in dances are very essential in relating to the historical and cultural heritage of Costa Rica. Women mostly wear white flounced or ruffled blouses with trimmings in different colors. And these colors are always done in patriotic colors. Red, white and blue (just like the U.S.) is the color of the national flag. Women also wear wide skirts in vivid colors. These skirts can be ruffled and long to the ankles. Often they wear earrings and flower baskets and sometimes an apron that usually matches their blouse. They may wear a braid with flowers in their hair and sandals on their feet. The men dress simply. They also use vivid colors such as blue and yellow on their kerchiefs around their neck and a red belt. Often the belt is removed when dances begin. Men also wear white brim hats with a light colored shirt and long pants.

Costa Rica is widely known for their cultural events, local traditions, legends, music and dance. Tourists always marvel how exquisite everything is done. Our founder, Marilyn Fordney and her husband, Sandor Havasi have traveled to Costa Rica and enjoyed it very much. I am displaying a picture that Sandor took himself of these young dancers. I look forward to one day going there myself.

Thought Of The Week: You are here not to shrink down to less but to blossom into more of who you really are. – Oprah Winfrey


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Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website